Monday, November 1, 2010

Maine: final pre-election round-up

Election day is tomorrow. Here are a few final items for Mainers and Maine aficionados:

Angus King condemns false political ads, endorses Cutler: As you've probably heard by now, two-term independent governor Angus King gave independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler a last minute endorsement Saturday. What you may have missed is that the speech King gave was uncharacteristically pointed, and well worth watching in its entirety. He says while he respects Paul LePage and has a 25-year friendship with Libby Mitchell, extreme partisanship and the negative mailers from the Maine Democrats deployed against Cutler compelled him to take a position.

Mitchell campaign and the FiveThirtyEight engine: Amid the growing consensus that Mitchell is indeed the spoiler who will give LePage the Blaine House, Mitchell supporters have clung to the New York Times' "FiveThirtyEight" forecasting engine, which claimed for most of the election that Cutler had a "zero percent" chance of winning. That's changed in the past week, but the algorithms in the engine don't respond to sudden changes, like the rapid sea change in polling numbers for Cutler and the endorsements of him of virtually every newspaper in Maine.

But as the New York Times' very own Five Thirty Eight blog notes: "If a candidate upends [LePage] at the last minute, it might indeed be Mr. Cutler rather than Ms. Mitchell. The model finally puts Mr. Cutler on the scoreboard, giving him about a 2 percent chance of victory (it had given him almost no chance before). I suspect that is a bit low, and that Ms. Mitchell’s chances, down sharply on Friday to 5 percent, are too high. The movement in this race is occurring very, very rapidly, in a way that sometimes occurs in primaries but is extremely rare in general elections."

Is the Maine Tea Party non-partisan?: Maine's "Tea Party" movement is just as ideologically ambiguous and institutionally fractured as its counterparts elsewhere in the country, so any conversation about what and who it supports isn't going to reach any solid conclusions. Still, it's interesting to see one of its (many) leaders holding a press conference to try to emphasize that it doesn't endorse candidates, even Republican First District Congressional candidate Dean Scontras, who's said he likes to think of himself as one of the movement's founders. But, then, the very same Tea Party leader has actively campaigned for Republican Second District Congressional candidate Jason Levesque on one of the principle Tea Party websites. No wonder we're confused!

Who's against an elected Portland mayor? Last week I posted a summary of campaign and PAC financial disclosures for local Portland races and ballot questions. The latter include a vote on whether to institute a directly elected mayor, an issue I've written about in Down East. Afterward, I realized the clerks had not given me the disclosures for the anti-mayor group, the grandly named Citizens to Retain Responsible Government, headed by longtime councilor Cheryl Leeman and the "unofficial mayor of Commercial Street," Cyrus Hagge, a philanthropist and president of a general contracting firm.

Another tedious trip to City Hall yields this snapshot of the anti-mayor cause. Ms. Leeman's PAC raised far less than its opponents -- $1175 in the current period -- and most of the contributions came from real estate interests, including (Mr. Hagge's) Project Management Inc., 2 Union Street LLC, 217 Commerical Street LLC, Bowball Investments LLC, and Mary Boulos of Cape Elizabeth. This would seem to indicate that at least some developers feel threatened by the idea of an elected mayor, even a weak one.

[Update, 11/1/2010, 14:45: One final poll out today, this from my colleagues at Down East. It shows LePage way ahead, Cutler in second, and Mitchell trailing. Mike Tipping -- perhaps the Maine media's closest thing to a polling expert -- has all the details.]

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